Jobs With Justice March: Recap

by Fred McKissack Jr. | February 18, 2016 11:03 am

Of all the excellent moments at last weekend’s Jobs with Justice conference, the one the continues to stick out for me was when Melonie Griffiths yelled, “I am the movement!” the hundreds gathered at Saturday afternoon’s general session: “Race Matters: Building Our Movement to End Racial Injustice.”

The JWJ Massachusetts’s organizing director said the movement–she doesn’t do campaigns–must include people of color who must be at the table to determine their destinies.

JWJ was a nexus between old labor and today’s need for inclusion and solidarity: economic justice and Black Lives Matter and immigration reform, fighting “Right to Work” and privatization of education and public services, national movements and translocal solidarity. The conference’s workshop blocks reflected that drive toward a 21st century way of thinking, and I attended sessions on data-driven storytelling and organizing temp workers.

It was a diverse crowd. At the Friday morning opening session, I sat a table with an organizer/grad student from Brandies; a Midwestern-based field organizer from the United Steelworkers; a read-for-action woman who had spent weeks fighting for Congress’ in-house telecomm staff as a rep from the NABET-Communications Workers of America; and a German-based policy wonk from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

But it was evident the conference included a range of race, age, education, geography, and industry. For example, at Friday’s general session, “Workers Organizing and Winning,” the panel included worker-leaders from home healthcare and painting, to a Huffington Post tech reporter and the vice president of the California Teachers Union.

Another highlight was Friday afternoon’s march, which included simultaneous pickets at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retailer Federation, Picketers carried placards, moms and dads pushed strollers, chants echoed off buildings. Cabbies and truckers honked in support; some pedestrians waved; I remember one young man yelling from a bus stop: “I wish I could join you!”

This is the movement.

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